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VOL. 118 | NO. 54 | Wednesday, March 31, 2004

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What could be considered the main intersection of Memphis riverfront is rapidly becoming the subject of lively discussion and

Memphis Salon Offers European Flair

ANDREW BELL

The Daily News

For nearly 40 years, Memphians have had their hair colored, cut and styled at Bermel Hair Salon, located in the Chickasaw Crossing shopping center.

The full-service shop has 17 employees, seven of whom are part of the family that opened the shop, natives of the Netherlands.

Changing plans. The idea of moving permanently from Doornenburg, Holland, to Memphis let alone co-owning and managing a business was not Hans Bermels original intention.

In the early 1960s, 18-year-old Bermel left home to visit his older brother, August, who had moved to Florida and taken a job at a salon. Hans, one of 12 siblings, initially came to America as a tourist.

Soon, however, the brothers were introducing European hairstyles at an existing international salon in Memphis, where they proudly relayed stories of their homeland while establishing a customer base.

I thought I would come here a couple of years and go back home, but once youre here in America and you see how great the country is, going back is not an option, Bermel said. America truly is the land of opportunity.

On their own. The Bermel brothers eventually opened their salon at the corner of Poplar Avenue and Avalon Street.

We were having success and became well-known enough for our work that we thought, Why dont we give it a try ourselves? Bermel said.

Eventually, August left the business, but other siblings, including Peter, Jozef and Annamarie, moved from Holland to help run the store. Later, second-generation relatives Nicole, Angelique and Amy also began working at the store.

The salon has changed locations twice, but has been at its current site since about 1990. Bermel said the salon handles about 500 customers weekly.

While other salons have moved east, we stayed put in Midtown, and that has made a big difference, he said.

The salon employs 10 stylists, two manicurists, three technicians and two managers.

Beyond hairdos. Although Bermel said the salons prices tend to be higher than many chain salons, the shop offers more for the customer.

Here, we tend to be more of a higher-end salon, but we put an emphasis on quality, he said. We are not an assembly-line place of business. Were also about more than just getting a haircut. There are times in customers lives that they want to come in here and have someone listen to them and their lifes worries, and we enjoy doing that.

International link. Like many Europeans, the Bermels are passionate about soccer or football, as the sport is known in most of the world.

In the early 1970s, Bermel was a key figure in establishing the citys first youth soccer league. Through the sport, he has made and improved international connections between the Memphis community and Holland where brother Heinz runs a similar salon.

About 10 years ago, Hans and a brother returned home to celebrate their mothers 80th birthday. While visiting, the family played with friends against a local club team; soon, about 50 club players flew to Memphis for a return match and to tour the city.

In a few months, Bermel will travel to Manchester, England, to watch a pro game thanks to an arrangement made by Bermel client Laura Cianciola, who recently married European soccer star Tim Howard.

Home sweet home. Bermel said though business remains strong and steady, he doesnt plan to open a second store at least not in the near future.

If I could find more employees like I have here now, I might, he said.

He has considered trying to recruit new employees from Europe. However, international travel restrictions make those efforts difficult, he said.

Bermels dual love for America and the Netherlands led him to obtain dual citizenship.

I continue to go back home for visits, but the fact that I never moved back speaks volumes about how I feel, he said. America is my home.

  Bermel Hair Salon

Owner: Hans Bermel

Founded: 1994

Basics: The family-owned salon has brought European style and high-quality service to Memphis for more than 30 years.

 

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